Facts and figures on Europe's biodiversity

01 February 2012 | Article

 

European biodiversity in numbers:

  • 488 bird species
  • 260 mammal species
  • 85 species of amphibians
  • 546 species of freshwater fishes
  • 1,100 marine fishes
  • More than 100,000 species of invertebrates.
  • A large proportion of European animals and plants are unique (endemic) to the region including about 27% of terrestrial mammal species, 77% of amphibians, 52% of reptiles, and 81% of freshwater fishes.
  • Mostly due to human activity, 15% of mammals, 13% of birds, 37% of freshwater fishes and 23% of amphibians are threatened with extinction.
  • European Union Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories (or Europe overseas for short) have more endemic animal and plant species than are found on the whole of continental Europe.

A barrage of threats

  • The main threats to European biodiversity are land use by people, dam construction, water use, introduced species and pollution. In the oceans and seas, over-harvesting is reducing fishery stocks to below their recovery limits, while bycatch and pollution threaten marine mammals.

The good news

  • In 1992 European Union governments adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe known as the Habitats Directive. At the heart of this is the creation of a network of sites called Natura 2000 which now covers 17% of the European territory.
  • IUCN, its Members and partners are implementing a range of projects aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of Europe’s natural resources.
  • Funded by the European Commission, The European Union Business and Biodiversity Platform in which IUCN is an adviser helps the business sector integrate biodiversity into their operations by promoting and rewarding best practices.

Forest facts

  • Forests cover 44% of Europe’s land area and they continue to expand.
  • Europe’s forest increased by almost 13 million hectares—that’s roughly the size of Greece—from 1990 to 2005 mainly due to planting of new forests and natural expansion of forests onto former agricultural land.
  • At just over 1 billion hectares, 25% percent of the world’s forests are in Europe. About 80% of this is in the Russian Federation.
  • About 5% of Europe’s forests is protected; 3% is protected with the main objective of conserving biodiversity. Another 1.7% is protected with the main objective of conserving landscapes and specific natural features.
  • Twenty-six percent of European forests are considered undisturbed—mainly located in eastern and northern European countries.
  • More than 20% of European forests are managed primarily to protect water, soil and infrastructure, including settlements, roads, railways, pipelines, cultivated and industrial areas.

Europe overseas

  • Europe overseas territories together form the world’s largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 15 million km2.
  • Ascension Island supports the second largest Green Turtle rookery in the Atlantic.
  • Gough Island (Tristan da Cunha) is one of the most important seabird islands in the world. It supports the entire global population of Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) and millions of pairs of other seabirds including the world’s largest colony of the Northern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) and the Dark-mantled Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria fusca).
  • The Crozet archipelago (French Southern and Antarctic Territories) is nicknamed the “25 million bird island”. The density of the marine bird population reaches a staggering 60 tonnes/km². Crozet was designated as a “national park refuge for certain species of birds and mammals” in 1938.
  • The coral reefs of the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory) feature among some of the most pristine and best protected in the Indian Ocean (and account for some 1.3% of the world total).
  • New Caledonia alone has 2,423 endemic species; France only has 353.
  • Thanks to French Guiana, the European Union is also present in the Amazon. This region, which only accounts for 7% of global land area, is home to more than half of the world’s animal and plant species. French Guiana’s 83,000 km² of Amazon forest, the size of Portugal, contains about half of France’s in an eighth of its area.
  • The waters of the tropical islands of Europe overseas are home to an exceptional collection of marine fauna and flora. Mayotte has the richest collections of tropical insular flora in the world in terms of species density. French Polynesia alone has 20% of the world’s atolls. With 14,280 km2 of reefs, New Caledonia is home to one of the world’s largest coral barrier reefs,
  • The Canary Islands boast 29 of the 81 species of whales, some 36% of the world’s whale population.
  • Greenland is home to the largest national park in the world, which extends over some 956,000 km2.